If UFC president Dana White has his way, the promotion will go all out for Conor McGregor’s return – although you might just consider it back to normal.
On Thursday, McGregor signed a bout agreement making his expected rematch with Dustin Poirer official for UFC 257 on Jan. 23. While the event does not have an officially designated location, White would like it to take place on “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi with all the works.
“I’m looking to make it International Fight Week,” White told Barstool Sports. “The new Ethiad Arena will be open, and that thing was designed with us in mind. Concerts, pool parties, all kinds of cool stuff. And, yes, I hope to bring fans back. … That’s what I’m shooting for.”
Since its May return following a brief shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the UFC has operated events without fans. It started with UFC 249 and a string of three events in eight days in at VyStar Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Fla. Since then, the UFC has run near-weekly events at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, as well as Flash Forum on “Fight Island,” which has hosted two separate five-week stints.
Ideally, White said he’d like a “Fight Island” version of International Fight Week to include multiple shows.
“What I would love to do is we’ll get there, and do it Saturday, Wednesday, Saturday fights,” White said. “… We go out there and kill it.”
As of now, the UFC has a Fight Night headlined by Max Holloway vs. Calvin Kattar scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 16 to go with UFC 257 the following Saturday.
White’s desire comes at a time when COVID-19 is still a worldwide problem, with numbers surging to new highs in the U.S. in recent weeks. The U.S. is up to nearly 12 million total cases and 252,000 deaths. Significant progress has been made on a vaccine, but logistical challenges remain for wide distribution.
From the start of the pandemic, White was eager to push through with events. His desire to go big for McGregor’s return should come as no surprise. He believes the UFC is capable of pulling it off safely.
“It would be good to have fans. And the thing is, from ‘Fight Island’ we can get fans all over the world there. It’s an easy destination to get to, a fun destination to go to, and we can just (expletive) blow the doors off this thing,” White said.
He continued, “I’m ready for some fights with fans. I’m ready to go to a live concert. I’m ready to have some parties. I’m gonna go to all this shit. I want to mingle with the fans again. I want the fans back. We’ve figured this whole thing out up to now. We’ll figure out how to do do this safely and pull this thing off in Abu Dhabi.”